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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Stealing Iraqi Oil

An oil contract Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer helped negotiate in Iraqi Kurdistan is one of several production deals the U.S. State Department has flagged as problematic for Iraq and its attempts to establish a national oil policy. The oil contract, finalized in November 2007, allows a subsidiary of Schaffer's former employer, Denver-based Aspect Energy, to produce oil on a nearly 104-square-mile plot in the Dohuk Governate in northern Iraq. Schaffer confirmed Wednesday he was one of several Aspect Energy executives who visited Kurdistan in November 2006 and laid the groundwork for the company's oil deal with the Kurds. The Kurdistan Regional Government, which governs the semi-autonomous region of Iraq, has moved during the past several years to aggressively develop crude oil resources in northern Iraq. The regional government's efforts to attract foreign energy firms comes as efforts to implement a national oil policy, including a framework to distribute the profits, have stalled. According to a June 23 report from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, Aspect Energy's oil contract and roughly two dozen other similar deals have proven a point of contention between Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government. "The (Kurdistan Regional Government) has negotiated an estimated 25 contracts with foreign oil firms, which the Iraqi federal government claims are illegal," according to the report. Schaffer said he was unaware the State Department had warned energy firms not to strike oil deals with the Kurdistan Regional Government at the time of his visit.

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